Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

(la traduction en français arrive sous peu…)
My quest for the perfect biryani recipe has started a few years ago. After tasting the best biryani ever in a restaurant in Dubai, I wanted to be able to eat in my own home the delicate and delicious taste of the spices, and the perfect texture of the rice… I tried many recipes, even bought some ready made spices-mix (a total heresy for me!) but it seems I never managed to get it right… Eventually, I gave up, I even gave up eating biryani in restaurants here in Geneva, as they usually turned out even worse than my attempts…
However, when my dear Heavenly Housewife challenged us to prepare a biryani, I decided it was time to try once more… And I did well!
The result was beyond my expectations! Of course, it is far from the perfection of the biryani I ate in Dubai, but seriously, it is pretty close to it…
The list of ingredients is quite long, and the preparation might seem lenghty, but fear not, it can be done in… let’s say about 2 hours (not counting the cooking time in the oven) and the preparation can be spread on two days (pls see my note at the bottom of the post)
By the way, what is a biryani?

The name “biryani” come from the Persian word beryān/biryan which means “fried” or “roasted“. There are many kinds of biryanis and it is a festive dish both in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. The origin of biryani in India comes from the Moghol dynasty (originally from Persia) who brought many delicate and eleborated dishes to the already rich Indian cuisine.  Biryani is made from a mixture of spices, basmati rice, meat or vegetables and yogurt.  Unlike pulao in which all ingredients are cooked together, the main components of biryani are cooked separately, then layered and finally slowly cooked in the oven.

And before sharing the recipe, I can only advise you to visit these talented bloggers for more biryani-love:

Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

Recipe adapted from IndiaCurry (here)
ingredients for 4-5 servings:
  • Spiced water
8dl water
2 cm fresh ginger, chopped
6 black cardamom pods, crushed
10 black peppercorn
4 cm cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 whole cloves
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 Bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Spiced milk

2 dl milk
2 cardamom pods, crushed
a pinch of Saffron strands
1 teaspoon rose water

  • Rice

150g (1cup) Basmati rice
2 cups spiced water
a few saffron strands
1/2 teaspon salt

  • Vegetable Layer

1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onions,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup green peas
salt to taste
¼ cup yogurt
½ cup spiced water

  • Paneer Layer

200g paneer, cubed
1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder

  • Garnish layer

1 tablespoon ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons cashews
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh peppermint leaves

  • Chapatti dough to seal the pot

2 cups wholemeal flour
Water to knead the dough (about 1/3 cup)


1. Prepare the spiced water: put the water and the spices indicated under “spiced water” in a pot and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Drain and keep aside.

2. Prepare the spiced milk: put the milk, cardamom pods and saffron in a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool, remove the cardamom pods and add the rosewater.

3.Prepare the paneer:Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the paneer. Stir well to coat it with the spice and fry for a few minutes. Keep aside.

4. Prepare the vegetable: Put the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the vegetable, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/2 cup of spiced water and the yogurt. Simmer until the vegetable are nearly cooked (about 10-15 minutes).

5. Prepare the garnish layer: Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onions and fry them until golden brown. Add the cashew and almonds. Fry for 2 more minutes. Keep aside and add the chopped herbs.

6. Prepare the rice: Rinse the rice until the water is clear. Put in a pot and add 2 cups of spiced water and 1/2 a teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let is stand for 10 more minutes.If there is water that has not been absorbed, drain it.

7. Prepare the chapatti dough: slowly add a little water to the flour until combined. Knead for 2 minutes. Keep aside.
8. Layering the biryani: Preheat the oven to 210°C. Spread one layer of rice in a pot. Sprinkle about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the vegetables, spreading them evenly. Cover with one thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the paneer, spreading it evenly. Add a thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.

Add the garnish ingredients and finally, top it with a final layer of rice. Sprinkle with about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll it in a 1 cm diameter log. Place it around the edge of the pot. Roll the rest of the dough in a circle, a bit bigger than the diameter of your pot. Cover the pot with it, pressing the edges on the log, so that it is well sealed.

Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.Then, reduce heat to 180°C and cook for 20 more minutes.

When serving, cut off the bread lid and stir the biryani with a spoon to combine all the flavours.


1. If you are short of time, you can prepare steps 1 to 5 the day before and keep all the items in the refrigerator.

2. It is not necessary to seal with a chapatti. You can seal the pot with a tight lid or with foil, tightly wrapped around the pot.

3. You can add cauliflower and/or other veggies. Similarly, paneer can be omitted or replaced by boiled eggs.

Indian Cooking Challenge: Chola fali, a gujarati snack for Diwali

(en français, plus bas)

This month, Srivalli asked us to prepare Chola fali, a Gujarati snack made on the occasion of Diwali. She proposed two versions of the recipe. I chose Preeti’s version, which seemed to be easier.

In general, I never make fried snacks at home, so I am in unknown territory when it comes to oil temperature and timesof frying… This might explain why my chola fali did not puff. they were very tasty and crunchy, remained totally flat!!!

ingredients for about 25-30 Chofali:

1/2 cup hot water

1 cup chickpea flour (besan)

1/4 cup urad dal flour

1/4 cup moong dal flour

1 teaspoon oil

2 pinches salt

1 pinch baking soda

red chilli powder and salt to sprinkle on the chola fali
oil for deep frying

Combine the three flours, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Mix well. Add the oil to the water and slowly stir in into the flour mixture, until combined into a firm dough. Cover and keep aside for 15 minutes.

Take out a ball of dough, size of a walnut and roll it out until very thin. Cut it in strips or round shapes. ( I used my faithful tortellini cutter to cut rounds). Repeat the operation until all the dough is used.

In the meantime heat the oil. When it is hot, deep fry the cholafali until golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with red chilli powder and salt. Serve with mint & coriander chutney. Ce mois-ci, Srivalli nous a demandé de préparer des Chola Fali, un snack de la région indienne du Gujarat, cuisiné à l’occasion de la fête hindoue des lumières, Diwali. Elle a proposé deux versions de la recette. J’ai choisi la version de Preeti, qui semblait être plus facile.

En général, je ne fais jamais de friture à la maison, alors je me suis donc trouvée en territoire inconnu, notamment avec la température de l’huile et le temps de friture… Cela pourrait expliquer pourquoi mes Chola Fali n’ont pas gonfés. ils étaient très savoureux et croquants, mais sont resté totalement plats!

ingrédients pour une vingtaine de chola fali

1/ 2 tasse d'eau chaude1 verre de farine de pois chiches (besan)
1 / 4 verre de farine de lentilles blanches (urad dal)
1 / 4 tasse de farine de lentille jaunes (moong dal)
1 cuillère à café d'huile
2 pincées de sel
1 pincée de bicarbonate
poivre de Cayenne en poudre et sel pour saupoudrer les
huile pour friture

Mélanger les trois farines, le sel et le bicarbonate
dans un bol. Bien mélanger.
Ajouter l'huile à l'eau et incorporer lentement dans le
mélange de farines, bien mélanger jusqu'à obtenir une pâte
Couvrir et laisser reposer pendant 15 minutes.
Prendre une petite boule de pâte, de la taille d'une
noix et l'étaler très finement.
Couper des bandes ou des ronds. (J'ai utilisé mon fidèle
 outil pour couper les tortelini).
Répéter l'opération jusqu'à ce que toute la pâte soit utilisée.
En attendant faire chauffer l'huile.
Quand elle est chaude, faire frire les cholafali
jusqu'à coloration dorée. Égoutter sur du papier absorbant
 et saupoudrer de poudre de piment de cayenne et de sel.
Servir avec du chutney de menthe et la coriandre.

Lentils and Aubergine salad – Salade aux lentilles et aubergine

(en français, plus bas)

This salad is a very versatile and tasty dish!  Versatile, because if you don’t fancy eating it as a salad, you can cook the lentils and vegetables a little longer with a little more water and you will have a great dal. And if you don’t feel like having dal, add even more vegetable stock and put the whole preparation in a blender: you will have a comforting and nutritious soup!

It is not a spicy dish, even if you could add more chillies if you like. The flavours of coriander and cumin are blending very well with the eggplants, and yogurt is adding a smooth texture which is very pleasant on the palate.

This is a recipe adapted from one of Hiltl’s books. The Hiltl family has owned it eponymous restaurant in Zurich since 1898. It is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe and if you visit Zurich, it is surely a great place to have vegetarian food! (see my previous post on Zurich, here).

Ingredients for 4 servings:

Recipe from R Hiltl’s book “Saveurs et fantaisies végétariennes” with some minor changes.

100g brown lentils (I used Puy lentils)

100g urad dal (white lentils)

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1 red bell pepper, halved and sliced in thin stripes

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 aubergine/eggplant (about 250g), diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2cm ginger, grated

salt and pepper for seasoning

4dl vegetable stock

80g yogurt

2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped



Rinse the brown lentils until water is clear. Put in a pot with 4 times the volume in water. Bring to a boil and simmer until lentils are tender but firm. Drain and keep aside. (Do not add salt in the water!)

Repeat the operation with the white lentils (urad dal).

Heat oil in a pan. Fry the cumin seeds for about 30 seconds, add the coriander powder and fry for 30 more seconds. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the chopped shallot. Combine well and fry for one minute.

Add the bell pepper stripes and the chopped green chilli. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the aubergine cubes, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, until vegetable are tender.

After that time, if there is stock left in the pan, remove the lid and cook for 1-2 minutes on high heat until stock has evaporated.

Keep aside to cool a little.

Add the lentils, the chopped coriander leaves and the yogurt. Check the seasoning.  Transfer to a large serving bowl, combine well and serve.

I am sending this salad to Jacqueline from the blog Tinned Tomatoes, co-founder and host of the monthly event No Croutons Required. For this month, the theme is: lentils.

and to:

My Legume Love Affair (MLLA) #38, hosted this month by Preeti from the blog Relishing Recipes. MLLA is a monthly event celebrating legumes created by Susan from the blog the Well-Seasoned Cook.

 Salade aux lentilles et aubergine

Cette salade est non seulement très goûteuse, elle peut aussi se transformer en d’autres plats! Si vous n’avez pas envie de la manger en salade, il suffit faire cuire les lentilles et les légumes un peu plus longtemps avec plus d’eau et vous obtiendrez un délicieux dal. Et si vous n’avez pas envie de manger du dal, ajoutez encore plus de bouillon de légumes et passez la préparation au blender: vous dégusterez alors une soupe nourrissante et réconfortante ! Ce plat est agréablement épicé, mais pas pimenté, vous pouvez bien entendu ajouter plus de piment si vous le souhaitez. Les saveurs de la coriandre et du cumin se marient très bien avec les aubergines et le yaourt apporte une texture douce qui est très agréable au palais.
C’est une recette adaptée de l’un des livres de Hiltl. La famille Hiltl est propriétaire du restaurant éponyme à Zurich depuis 1898. C’est le plus ancien restaurant végétarien d’Europe et si vous visitez Zurich, c’est vraiment l’endroit idéal pour se régaler avec de la nourriture végétarienne! (voir mon article précédent sur Zurich, ici).

Ingrédients pour 4 personnes:
Recette du livre R Hiltl de “Saveurs et Fantaisies végétariennes” avec quelques petites modifications
100g de lentilles brunes (j’ai utilisé des lentilles du Puy)
100g de lentilles blanches (urad dal)

1 cuillerée à soupe d’huile
1 cuillère à café de graines de cumin oriental
2 cuillères à café de coriandre en poudre
1 échalote, pelée et finement coupée
1 poivron rouge, coupé en deux, puis tranché en fines lamelles
1 piment vert, haché finement
1 aubergine (environ 250g), coupée en cubes
1 gousse d’ail hachée
2cm de gingembre, râpé
sel et poivre pour assaisonner
4dl de bouillon de légumes
80g de yaourts
2 cuillères à soupe de feuilles de coriandre hachées

Rincer les lentilles brunes jusqu’à ce que l’eau soit claire. Mettre dans une casserole avec 4 fois leur volume en l’eau. Porter à ébullition et laisser mijoter jusqu’à ce que les lentilles soient tendres mais encore fermes. Égoutter et garder de côté. (Ne pas ajouter de sel dans l’eau!)
Répéter l’opération avec les lentilles blanches (urad dal).
Chauffer l’huile dans une poêle. Faire revenir les graines de cumin pendant environ 30 secondes, puis ajouter la coriandre en poudre et faire revenir pendant 30 secondes supplémentaires. Baisser à feu moyen.
Ajouter l’échalote hachée. Bien mélanger et faire cuire pendant une minute.
Ajouter le poivron et le piment vert. Cuire pendant 2-3 minutes, en remuant fréquemment.
Ajouter les cubes d’aubergine, l’ail et le gingembre. Assaisonner avec du sel et du poivre. Remuer jusqu’à ce que tous les ingrédients soient bien mélangés.

Ajouter le bouillon de légumes. Porter à ébullition puis réduire le feu, couvrir avec un couvercle et laisser mijoter pendant environ 10 – 15 minutes, jusqu’à légumes soient tendres.
Après ce temps, s’il reste du bouillon dans la casserole, enlever le couvercle et cuire pendant 1-2 minutes à feu vif jusqu’à ce que le bouillon se soit évaporé.
Laisser refroidir un peu.
Ajouter les deux sortes de lentilles, les feuilles de coriandre hachées et le yaourt. Rectifier l’assaisonnement. Mettre dans un saladier et bien mélanger avant de servir.